Dying veteran gets final wish, enjoys new Star Wars film

By JASON SCHREIBER
Sunday News Correspondent
December 16. 2017 4:08PM
Ron Villemaire gives a thumbs up while sharing a few minutes with Chewbacca at O'neil Cinemas in Epping Saturday afternoon. (Jason Schreiber/Sunday News Correspondent)

EPPING — The force was with Ron Villemaire Saturday as the dying military veteran was taken by ambulance to a movie theater to catch the latest Star Wars blockbuster, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Surrounded by nearly two dozen Star Wars characters, emergency personnel, family members and friends, the 69-year-old Villemaire, who’s battling cancer, was wheeled into O’neil Cinemas, placed on a bed provided by the fire department and handed a soda and bucket of popcorn.

It was a day the Air Force veteran from Manchester never thought he’d see.

“Thank God, I am being blessed with enough health so I can watch this movie. I did not think I was going to make it, but when I woke up this morning I knew it was really, really going to happen. I’m in shock, I really am,” he said.

Villemaire couldn’t stop smiling and thanking the many people who came together to grant his final wish.

It all started with his daughter, Elizabeth Ngo, who was determined to make sure her dad didn’t miss his chance to see the film. He’s been a Star Wars fan ever since the first movie premiered in 1977.

As news spread of his wish, Kelly O’neil, a member of the O’neil family that operates the theater, immediately offered to accommodate Villemaire and his family and friends, giving him his own theater and paying for the seats of all his guests.

“It was something we could help with, and I really think if you can help, you should,” O’neil said.

Villemaire’s trip wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the Bedford, Epping and New Boston fire departments. Bedford and New Boston personnel transported Villemaire from his hospice bed at Bedford Hills Center to Epping.

Emergency personnel from Epping set up the bed at the theater and were on hand to assist when the Bedford and New Boston crews arrived with their guest.
Air Force veteran Ron Villemaire offers a salute as emergency personnel wheel him into O’neil Cinemas in Epping Saturday with Star Wars characters lined up at the entrance. (Jason Schreiber/Sunday News Correspondent)

After hearing about the wish, New Boston Fire Chief Dan MacDonald said he contacted Bedford Deputy Fire Chief Scott Hunter and they began making plans to drive Villemaire to Epping, with help from several members from each department.

“We have resources to make people that aren’t well get places. I called Scott and talked it over and decided we’d get him to the movie house,” MacDonald said.

The trip was made even more special when members of the Star Wars fan clubs, 501st New England Garrison, a unit of the 501st Legion, and Alderaan Base, the Rebel Legion of New England, showed up in character.

“Awesome! Awesome!” Villemaire shouted as he shared a moment with Chewbacca before the movie began.

“We said, you know what? This guy likes Star Wars. This is the kind of community service that we pride ourselves on doing. This is a golden opportunity to give back,” said Doug Wilder, executive officer of the 501st Legion, the New England Garrison.

Villemaire appreciated the efforts of those who pulled off his big day at the movies.

“I am loving that so many people are doing this for me. I am really overwhelmed by the love,” he said.

While overjoyed, Villemaire was reminded of his failing health as he fights stage 4 colon cancer that has spread to other parts of his body.

He was excited while talking about the new Star Wars movies that will be made in the future. Then, he paused.

“I wish I was going to be here to be part of it, though,” he said.

jschreiber@newstote.com 


Public SafetyNH PeopleBedfordManchesterNew BostonEpping

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